Earliest known photograph of humans, taken in Paris in spring 1838 by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. Photo from Wikimedia Commons in public domain.
Yesterday we posted the first video of a snowstorm in New York City from 1902. Today, we wanted to share the first known photograph of New York City and the first photograph of a human, which was done in Paris. The above image by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, inventor of the daguerreotype was shot on Boulevard du Temple in Paris.
Last week, this image surfaced on Twitter erroneously labeled as the first photograph of Paris, but it is actually the first photograph of living humans ever taken. In the lower left corner you see two figures on the sidewalk, one giving a shoe shine. Though the streets look empty, it is believed that the traffic and moving pedestrians were not captured because of the long, 10 minute exposure. However, the two men were there long enough to register.
Daguerre’s partner Joseph Nicéphore Niépc is credited for taking the first photograph in the world, in 1826. It’s pretty fuzzy but it’s the view from Niépc’s country home in Le Gras, France on the border of France and Switzerland. As we reported in our article on the vintage photos of the NYC skyline, this is one of the oldest existing photographs of New York City, a rather bucolic farm scene on the Upper West Side taken in 1848 or earlier also using daguerreotype. It was sold at Sotheby’s in 2009 for $62.500.
Upper West Side (likely Bloomingdale Road, later Broadway) in 1840. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.
However, another daguerreotype of the Unitarian Church of the Messiah, on the east side of Broadway across Waverly Place, taken by Samuel F.B. Morse and John W. Draper, both then professors at New York University from their rooftop studio (at NYU’s Old Main Building) was either taken in the fall of 1839 or winter of 1840. The image is in the Photographic History Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Daguerrotype of Unitarian Church of the Messiah. Photo from Photographic History Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
This photograph of Chatham Street was taken between 1848 to 1853:
Chatham Square, artist unknown. Image from Metropolitan Museum of Art in public domain